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Art & Life with Michael Sakasegawa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Sakasegawa.

Michael, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’ve always had an interest in photography, but after high school, I put my camera down for a long time. It wasn’t until the birth of my first child that I got back into it—my wife bought me a DSLR for my birthday, about a month before our son was born. Like all new parents, I spent the first couple of years of my son’s life obsessively documenting every moment, but I found myself frustrated by what I wasn’t able to capture—namely, the emotions. I taught myself how to see more clearly by studying other people’s work; first professional portrait and wedding photographers, and later artists like Sally Mann and Emmet Gowin, as well as contemporary photographers like Andi Schreiber and Elizabeth Fleming.

I credit my growth as an artist to the Medium Festival of Photography, an annual event here in San Diego. Medium not only gave me the opportunity to receive vital critiques and feedback via their portfolio reviews, but it also connected me to the photographic community. Through that community, my work has become stronger, I’ve made invaluable friendships, and I’ve even been able to start my arts and literature podcast, Keep the Channel Open, which was primarily inspired by the conversations I had at Medium.

I originally grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, just outside of Carmel, CA, a place whose natural beauty has informed a lot of how I see the world now. I’ve lived in San Diego since 2005. All three of my children were born here, and every year my roots get a little deeper.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My creative practice is fairly diverse, incorporating photography, essays, poetry, bookbinding, and podcasting, but if there’s one thread or through-line, it’s in the idea of looking closer. Life and the world, no matter how mundane they might feel on a day-to-day basis, are full of mystery and beauty and wonder, if you only know how to look for it.

I like to say that art is a conversation, that it communicates. On some level, life can be a lonely experience in that you can never really know in a direct way what another person is thinking or feeling. But art allows us to bridge that gap, lets us share an emotional experience via the conversation between art, artist, and audience. All of my work, whether written or visual, is drawn from my experience of daily life, with a particular focus on the passage of time and the emotional experiences that have been meaningful to me. What I always say is that when I see in someone else’s work some experience or emotion that I recognize, it makes me feel a little bit less alone. I hope that my work can do that for someone else, as well.

I’ve shared images from two bodies of work below. The first is from a series called “All Good Things,” which springs from my experience of parenthood and how it has made me so aware of how fleeting this part of my life is. The second is from a body of work called “Caesura,” a series of photographs of tea residue on the inside of my cup, remnants of a daily ritual.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities, and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
I’m very fortunate to have a day job that allows me to support both my family and my creative practice. Early on, I tried making a business out of photography, offering my services as a family portrait and wedding photographer. And although I loved that work, I did find that it tended to make photography feel like a job. Having a day job comes with its own pressures, mainly as it can be challenging to find balance and make time for my family, my art, and my podcast, but what it does provide is the freedom to make the work that I want to make, without having to worry about whether or not it will sell. That’s a real privilege, and it’s not one I take lightly.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
The best place to see my work currently is via my website (sakeriver.com) or my Instagram (@sakeriver). I’ve also had essays published at PetaPixel and Catapult. And I am the host of the arts and literature podcast Keep the Channel Open, which is a series of conversations with artists, writers, and curators. I release new episodes every other Wednesday, and you can find a full archive of past episodes at keepthechannelopen.com.

For people who are interested in supporting my work, I have a Patreon campaign for my show, which you can find at patreon.com/sakeriver. Monthly pledges in any amount get you early access to each episode, as well as access to bonus audio content.

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Image Credit:
Michael Sakasegawa

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